Thursday, August 13, 2015


I realize it's been a while since I've blogged about craft or my own writing. Imagine that! Kind of silly since this is, after all, a writing blog! So...

Today I'm working on outlining. I'm not outlining a new story, but I'm working on reoutlining the end of a draft. (Is "reoutlining" even a word? It should be!)

How I work:
I outline a whole novel, breaking it down from start to finish. I love having a road map to follow, or a skeleton to fill in and make solid. Still, my outline is fluid. I often tend to come up with more interesting pieces as I write or I find flaws in some of my earlier ideas. Since this can never be predicted, the roads on my map change, the bones of my skeleton alter.

Once I've outlined, I start writing. At the beginning of a new chapter or sometimes before particular scenes, I do a basic outline again, writing down what I'm hoping to accomplish. If bits of dialogue or any other details hit me or float across my brain while outlining, I make note of them before I can forget them. 

This process requires me to change my bigger map from time to time. Right now is one of those times. I know where I'm headed and I know many of the things that have to happen between now and the end of the book, but I have to get them in the ideal order, eliminate paths that no longer feel right, and fill in spots. Since I can always cut things later, I tend to over-write in earlier drafts--or in new sections of older drafts. I'm not letting myself go back and edit yet (at least, not much) because I want to get to the end of this draft. Instead, I make notes to myself for the next draft. Suggestion: keep notes in the same place so they're together and easy to locate.

Right now I'm finding note cards to be helpful. I can move them and play with the order of my scenes, add cards, and remove cards. Some cards are filled, front and back, and some are just one single line. I trim (literally--with scissors) the ones that aren't full; I can always add more cards to fill in blanks and--I don't know--maybe being able to physically handle my pieces and use scissors and a pencil gives me some sort of benefit. I'm one of those people who likes to feel fabrics and paper and books when I'm shopping. Maybe I'm feeling my way through my novel's ending!

I bought Scrivener last year, but I never committed to learning it. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, Scrivener is a really cool software application designed for writers, and it has all sorts of features, including a virtual corkboad with virtual note cards to help with outlining. I plan to learn it better eventually, but, as I said, I'm not yet there. I suppose my method is like Scrivener for Cavemen and Cavewomen. Tee-hee!

I discovered I can sometimes see my story clearer or fresher if I change the way I'm outlining it. For example:
*switching from a computer outline to one in a spiral notebook
*breaking my story into three acts and dangling scenes from a line
*switching from a detailed outline on pages to scenes on note cards or scenes labeled on a blank, printed-out calendar

I don't know how many of you are "plotters" (those who plot in advance) or "pantsers" (those who write without a lot of plotting ahead of time--by the seat of their pants). I'm definitely a plotter--though I leave room for and honor the magic that comes when I least expect it, the stuff I could never have thought of without writing out my story.

Of course, there isn't a correct or an incorrect method. This is just how I do things.

How about you? Are you a plotter or a pantser? If you're a plotter, please share something about the way you plot your novels! If you're a pantser, please tell me about that! I'd love to hear!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Hip-hip-hooray for Jennifer and George!

Bloggy friends, please help me congratulate two dear friends on their latest picture books!


Uber-fun bookseller Victoria Irwin of Eagle Harbor Book Company helped me model their new and completely adorable books on Saturday.

Watch out, Heidi Klum! (Though I have a hunch we're a non-threat.)

Jennifer's book, I WILL NEVER GET A STAR ON MRS. BENSON'S BLACKBOARD, came out June 9. Isn't the cover fabulous?

Candlewick Press

I love that Jen's book about a girl who wants a star on a blackboard earned a starred review in Publishers Weekly. Sooo cool! Here's the Publishers Weekly review:

In a world--in this case, Mrs. Benson's elementary school classroom--where the neatniks and rule-followers get stars by their names on the blackboard, what's an inveterate doodler and daydreamer like Rose to do? Fortunately, Mrs. Benson isn't as autocratic and uncompromising as she seems: she gives Rose a much-needed pass on desk inspection day ("Close call, huh, Rosey? I'll look at yours tomorrow"), and sees star-worthy creativity in an enormous thank-you card that Rose makes for a visiting painter ("Rose, you are a true artist, just like Mr. Sullivan"). Mann, in her second book as both author and illustrator, works with assurance as she puts her jittery ink line and layered washes of color to work in the service of both emotional vulnerability and schoolroom slapstick without missing a beat. On the heels of her similarly sensitive treatment of an outsider making it work in Two Speckled Eggs, Mann is well on her way to becoming a champion portrayer of those who color outside the lines or march to a different drum. Ages 5-8.

ONE FAMILY, written by George and illustrated by Blanca Gomez, came out May 26. ONE FAMILY also has a gorgeous cover.

 Farrar, Straus and Giroux

A starred review in Kirkus said:

A playful counting book also acts as a celebration of family and human diversity.

Shannon's text is delivered in spare, rhythmic, lilting verse that begins with one and counts up to 10 as it presents different groupings of things and people in individual families, always emphasizing the unitary nature of each combination. "One is six. One line of laundry. One butterfly's legs. One family." Gomez's richly colored pictures clarify and expand on all that the text lists: For "six," a picture showing six members of a multigenerational family of color includes a line of laundry with six items hanging from it outside of their windows, as well as the painting of a six-legged butterfly that a child in the family is creating. While text never directs the art to depict diverse individuals and family constellations, Gomez does just this in her illustrations. Interracial families are included, as are depictions of men with their arms around each other, and a Sikh man wearing a turban. This inclusive spirit supports the text's culminating assertion that "One is one and everyone. One earth. One world. One family."

A visually striking, engaging picture book that sends the message that everyone counts. (Picture book. 3-6)

Both books are beautifully written and illustrated, both are getting excellent reviews, and I bought both as gifts for little cousins (sh-hh--that last part's a secret).

Now it's your turn! Do you want to give a shout-out for any picture books that you've seen recently? Do tell!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Book birthday: THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH by Martha Brockenbrough

It's out, it's out! It's out today!

I'd pre-ordered a copy of Martha Brockenbrough's THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH, and I picked it up this afternoon. Look at the beautiful cover!

THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH by Martha Brockenbrough
cover created by Chris Silas Neal
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic Inc.

I've been eagerly awaiting this YA novel. Why, you ask? I'll tell you: It sounds flippin' awesome.

Here's the blurb:

Anthony and Cleopatra.

Helen of Troy and Paris. 

Romeo and Juliet.

And now...Henry and Flora.

For centuries Love and Death have chosen their players. They have set the rules, rolled the dice, and kept close, ready to influence, angling for supremacy. And death has always won. Always.

Could there ever be one time, one place, one pair whose love would truly tip the balance?

Meet Flora Saudade, an African American girl who dreams of becoming the next Amelia Earhart by day and sings in the smoky jazz clubs of Seattle by night. Meet Henry Bishop, born a few blocks and a million worlds away, a white boy with his future assured--a wealthy adoptive family in the midst of the Great Depression, a college scholarship, and all the opportunities in the world seemingly available to him.

The players have been chosen. The dice have been rolled. But when human beings make moves of their own, what happens is anyone's guess.

Achingly romantic and brilliantly imagined, THE GAME OF LOVE AND DEATH is a love story you will never forget.

Swoon-worthy, yes? If that doesn't melt your cheddar cheese, what will?

I've heard it's fabulous from people who've had sneak peeks! And check out these reviews

Martha supports writers and illustrators in so many ways. She's a brilliant person, and she's filled to the scalp with writing talent, humor, and kindness. It's so exciting when someone you're rooting for creates a book you'd be dying to read even if you didn't know her. 

I cannot wait to read her story!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

SCBWI Western Washington Conference 2015

Last weekend's SCBWI Western Washington conference left me feeling grateful. I always attend our regional conference for the learning and inspiration. While I never know what they will be or where they will come from, I get precious nuggets of special somethings every time. Thanks to our Advisory Committee, we had a top-notch faculty and excellent sessions.

Both of author Sharon G. Flake's talks were wonderful. I loved her keynote, "Flying Scared: How to Get Published in Spite of Yourself." I'd already been to her session, "Creating a (Non-Stereotyped) Authentic Voice," so I knew the keynote was going to be great! Each of Ms. Flake's talks felt like a gift. She shared her experience, her strength, her wisdom, her vulnerability, and her beautiful spirit. I could listen to her all day. Ms. Flake is a best-selling, award-winning author, and I can't wait to dig into her first historical mystery, UNSTOPPABLE OCTOBIA MAY.

I won't post about every session and keynote, but you can read about them at SCBWI Western Washington's blog, The Chinook Update. What I'd like to do is say how thankful I am for the people in SCBWI. The friends I've met share encouragement, critiques, advice--more than I imagined when I decided to join. I hope I can give back just as much.

The writing journey is long, but how lucky we are to walk it together. How fortunate we are to have friends and colleagues who understand our deepest and shiniest dreams.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Inching into Spring

In February, I went to hear Kate DiCamillo speak. I'd been looking forward to the evening, but I enjoyed it even more than I'd imagined. Ms. DiCamillo is such a down to earth, real person. Seeing this and feeling like there are so many things I--we all--have in common with her, a Newbery Award-winning author, the National Ambassador for Young People's feeds something, like hope, or validation, or a combination of the many little-but-important things that can make us feel weak or strong as writers on a given day. Also, I like the way she talks, and when she read the opening of BECAUSE OF WINN DIXIE, my heart welled up like the Grinch's in reverse. It was a perfect moment.

I bought a copy of FLORA & ULYSSES for her to autograph. I went with friends Suzanne Selfors and Lynn Brunelle, which made it extra special.

left to right: Kate DiCamillo, me, Lynn Brunelle

Last week, my family bought chicks for our first time. They're so dang cute! We'll end up with seven chickens, once we pick up three more next week. We selected breeds we thought we'd like, and we wanted to have a variety of colors and personalities to keep things interesting. Eventually, we'll get fresh eggs with shells that are white, brown, and blue or green. Good to know that if there's a zombie apocalypse, we're good on eggs.

Other than that, no real news. I'm just bumping along, happily writing. This draft will take me a while, but I'm enjoying the process and the progress. I love this time of year, anyway, with Seattle getting a teeny bit more sunlight with each day. Love it!

Here are a few chick pictures. You'll see my friend Julie in one. Happy spring!

Sunday, February 8, 2015


On January 28, I went to Kevan Atteberry's book launch party for BUNNIES!!! It was great!

A huge crowd showed up at University Book Store for the event. Kevan read the story twice, the way one might with children, so all could anticipate the words and rhythm. Kids in the audience got into it, which was really fun. BUNNIES!!! is silly and sweet, and it's sure to cause giggles and smiles in children. And adults.

I had my picture taken with Kevan before the reading, and I got a bunny hug!

Kevan is uber-talented, and he's an incredibly nice person. I have a tremendous respect for him, personally and professionally, and I'm quite certain everyone who knows him feels the same way. Seriously. He's that good of a guy. And while I think he can probably draw anything, he has a special fondness for lovable monsters. The main character in BUNNIES!!! is Declan, a friendly monster with a pom-pom tail. He stands behind a tree on the cover, but there's no hiding how adorable he is.

BUNNIES!!! by Kevan Atteberry
Katherine Tegen Books, an imprint of HarperCollins

There were carrots and other bunny-friendly foods at the party, and also a beautiful cake! Here's Kevan with the cake. Don't you love the ears?

It's wonderful when hard-working, talented writers and illustrators succeed. When it's someone with a ginormous heart--someone who does so much to help other people--it's the best. Yay for Kevan and BUNNIES!!!

* * *
*This is the post I wrote about the time Kevan gave my daughter a special drawing.

*Here is a link to Kevan's books.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Cover reveal: 52 LIKES by Medeia Sharif

I'm excited to be a part of author Medeia Sharif''s latest cover reveal.

Are you ready?

Here it is!

52 LIKES by Medeia Sharif
Release date: January 16, 2015

Such a cool cover! Here's the blurb:

After a brutal rape and near-murder, Valerie wants to get past feelings of victimhood from both the assault and her history of being bullied. She's plagued by not knowing the identity of her rapist and by the nasty rumors in school about that night. Valerie follows clues from ghostly entities, past victims of the rapist-murderer, contacting her through a social media site--why do all of their eerie photographs have 52 likes under them? Their messages are leading her to the mystery man, although he'll put up a fight to remain hidden.

Sounds like a great read--very suspenseful!

Most of you probably already know Medeia. She supports so many bloggers by reviewing their books and visiting their blogs. I was lucky to meet Medeia at one of the SCBWI summer conferences in L.A., which was so much fun. She's super nice!

Congrats to you, Medeia! You work hard, and it's inspiring to see you succeed!

Find Medeia -- YA and MG Author

Blog   -   Twitter   -   Goodreads   -   Instagram   -   Amazon